Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 28, 2014

A faculty member at Lone Star College taught the wrong chemistry course for a semester, KHOU News reported. The television station told the story of an A student surprised to find she was failing introductory chemistry. But the professor eventually said that she had been teaching a more advanced course. The student said that the professor made up for the situation by raising everyone's grade. The college and professor aren't commenting, but KHOU confirmed the story with another student in the class and through an email in which a department chair said that teaching the more advanced course was not intentional.


March 28, 2014

The University of Konstanz, in Germany, has halted negotiations with Elsevier over a new deal on journals, Science Insider reported. Officials said that the prices being offered were simply too high to justify continued negotiations. Elsevier declined to comment.


March 27, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, Daniel Nettle, professor of behavioral sciences at Newcastle University, observed striking cultural differences even in people living geographically close to one another. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


March 27, 2014

Susan Patton set off an uproar and became known as "Princeton Mom" when she last year urged women at Princeton University to focus on landing a husband, lest they be left out by graduating without one. She earned a book deal and is now promoting that book with appearances in which she discusses her controversial views. The Daily Princetonian recently ran a question-and-answer interview with Patton that featured this exchange:

Daily Princetonian: You wrote: "Please spare me your ‘blaming the victim’ outrage," saying that a provocatively dressed drunk woman "must bear accountability for what may happen." Why does the woman hold the responsibility in the case of rape or sexual assault?

Patton: The reason is, she is the one most likely to be harmed, so she is the one that needs to take control of the situation. She is that one that needs to take responsibility for herself and for her own safety, and simply not allow herself to come to a point where she is no longer capable of protecting her physical self. The analogy that I would give you is: If you cross the street without looking both ways and a car jumps the light or isn’t paying attention, and you get hit by a car — as a woman or as anybody — and you say, "Well I had a green light," well yes you did have a green light but that wasn’t enough. So in the same way, a woman who is going to say, "Well the man should have recognized that I was drunk and not pushed me beyond the level at which I was happy to engage with him," well, you didn’t look both ways. I mean yes, you’re right, a man should act better, men should be more respectful of women, but in the absence of that, and regardless of whether they are or are not, women must take care of themselves.

The comments so angered Princeton faculty members that scores of them signed a joint letter denouncing Patton's views. "In light of statements made in a news article in this paper, we wish to inform the students on this campus that we do not believe that their manner of dress or drinking behavior makes them responsible for unwanted sexual contact," the letter said. "It is extremely important that individuals of all genders on a college campus feel comfortable reaching out for help. We, the undersigned faculty, stand behind victims of sexual assault and want them to know that our campus is a place where they have a voice, where they will not be made to feel responsible and where they can find support and justice."



March 27, 2014

A law professor at George Mason University was teaching Wednesday when a man entered his classroom, attempted to make a citizen's arrest of him, and then pepper sprayed him, NBC News 4 reported. The man with the pepper spray then left, and was arrested by local police.


March 27, 2014

North Korea is requiring male university students to get haircuts in the style of the country's ruler, Kim Jong-un, BBC reported. The requirement follows a campaign against long hair.


March 27, 2014

The movement on the part of student governments to issue resolutions supporting divestment from companies in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heated up this week, with results that are sure to be the source of continuing contention.

The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government on Wednesday rejected a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that allegedly have supported human rights violations against Palestinians, the Ann Arbor News reported. The 25-9 vote against the resolution came after a weeklong sit-in by the resolution’s advocates.

Meanwhile, the president of the United Student Government Association at Loyola University, in Chicago, vetoed a similar divestment resolution that the association had passed by a 12-10 margin, with nine abstentions, JNS.org reported. The student government president, Pedro Guerrero, cited what he described as the undemocratic way in which the resolution was introduced and the harm it had caused to the university community, among other concerns, in a veto message.

The Loyola student government, which has already taken two votes on the resolution -- the first passed by an even wider margin of 26-0, with two abstentions -- needs a two-thirds majority to override Guerrero's veto. 


March 27, 2014

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Glen McConnell says he can overcome the backlash that erupted after he was named the next president of the College of Charleston, a public liberal arts college. McConnell, who has been criticized for not being an academic and for his affiliation with Confederate historical causes, said time as leader of the state Senate taught him how to bring together divided constituencies. McConnell, a former student government president at the college, said students who staged a protest after his selection that was the largest in recent memory just need to get to know him. “Most of those people have never met me,” he said. ”They don’t know anything about me. They just know what somebody told them. When you operate on a misconception, then you don’t know the truth.” (McConnell did not respond to a request for an interview for the story linked to above, but reached out after it was published Wednesday.)

The student government has already taken a “no confidence” vote in the college’s trustees. The Faculty Senate is expected to take one next month. One of the concerns is that McConnell got the job through a rigged search process – he was selected despite not being one of the search committee’s finalists, according local media reports. McConnell said in a phone interview he didn’t know for sure about that.

Faculty also worry the trustees are looking to merge the college with a separate state-run medical school in Charleston. McConnell said he wants to expand the College of Charleston's research and post-graduate work to ensure that the state doesn’t force a merger. “I’m a product of a liberal arts college – the College of Charleston,” he said.

Faculty also say the board did not do enough to stick up for academic freedom after the state’s House moved to dock the college’s allowance over freshman reading material that lawmakers found to be gay-themed and therefore offensive. The book, Fun Home, is a memoir by a lesbian; it has been widely acclaimed and was recently turned into a musical. McConnell said he believes in academic freedom but would have handled the situation differently and not gotten into a tussle with House lawmakers and instead promised to take their concerns back to the faculty. But, he said, it’s not his job to tell faculty which books to assign. “Look,” he said. “I’m not qualified to tell a professor what to teach in their course.”

March 27, 2014

The University of South Florida backed off of plans to hire Steve Masiello as head basketball coach after finding out that he never earned the bachelor's degree he claimed to have from the University of Kentucky, The Tampa Tribune reported. The search firm used by the university for the search uncovered the falsehood. (Masiello attended but never graduated from Kentucky.) South Florida requires its head coaches to have bachelor's degrees. Masiello hasn't commented on the issue, but he may now be in danger at his current institution, Manhattan College, where his official biography has included the degree from Kentucky. The New York Daily News reported that Masiello has been placed on leave. A statement from the college said:  "As a result of a background check commissioned by the University of South Florida, Manhattan College has learned there is a question of the validity of head men’s basketball coach Steve Masiello’s undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky. Masiello is currently in the process of reviewing his degree status with the University of Kentucky. Manhattan College has placed Masiello on leave while he completes this process with the university."

March 26, 2014

Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent a letter last month warning lawyers at about 75 universities that "few, if any, college and university diversity admissions programs" would meet the test set by the Supreme Court in its ruling in Fisher v. Texas last June on affirmative action. The authors of the letter, Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, are in a clear minority on the panel: they are an independent and Republican, respectively, while the other four current members are all Democrats, and President Obama has two remaining spots to fill.

The views they express in the letter -- which they made clear were delivered in their "capacity as individual commissioners" -- are consistent with what they have often said before in criticizing colleges' consideration of race in admissions, arguing both that it is illegal and that racial preferences "hurt, rather than help, their intended beneficiaries."

College officials questioned the approach taken by the letter writers. “A letter on Civil Rights Commission stationery from a couple members sharing their personal legal interpretation of the Fisher decision does nothing to help campuses deal with these thorny issues but it can easily confuse and mislead those officials who receive it about the Commission’s views," Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said via email.

The civil rights commission had a discussion more than two years ago over whether it was appropriate for individual members of the panel to send correspondence on commission letterhead. The panel's members concluded that it was permitted as long as the letter writers made it clear they were not speaking on behalf of the panel.


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